Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Violin Man

He sits in front of a shop, scratching out notes, an open violin case with royal blue lining at his feet to catch the pennies.  He's a very old man, maybe eighty but possibly older; his shoulders are bowed and his face is lined.

Anyone who frequents the centre of town is aware of his daily presence.  I've referred to him in conversation before... "you know, the old man who plays the violin... but really badly!"  In my thoughts, he's become "The Violin Man" - you can't mistake him for the noise.

Because his music is a cacaphony of clashing notes, screeching amongst the low roar and hubbub of the busy street.  For years, I have listened to it as I walked through the town centre, never once really stopping except to hurriedly drop coins into his violin case.  I was giving him money out of charity, because I felt sorry for him; his music was so poor and his case usually so empty.

After tossing in a coin today, I hastened away as usual, but Coo was in the sling and her pointed finger and "Was at?" stopped me.  I realised she was curious about the violin and wanted to see.

We walked back and stopped about six feet away.  She fixed her eyes on the violin and stared steadily.

I stared too.  The Violin Man's fingers are thick and swollen, his hands encased in fingerless gloves.  But they moved across the strings with practised ease, not at all like a beginner.  And as I looked, suddenly the scraping notes began to acquire a tune.  Completely off key, but a tune.  Almost recognisable, like a passage from an orchestral arrangement, but because of the lack of key, not quite.  In my head, I counted... and the timing was impeccable!  

He played this same tune again and again, like a stuck record.  His bow rose and fell expertly, not clumsily like I had always seen before.

He looked over at us at one point, not stopping his repetition.  His head inclined slowly to one side in a polite nod, and he smiled a nearly toothless smile.  Because we were listening.  Not just throwing money at him and running away, but giving him our time.  It sounded to me as if the music grew slightly louder, but maybe it was just because I was really hearing him for the first time.  

And I am repenting of all that thoughtless giving of those extra coins in my purse.  It's what I do to make myself feel better when I have pity for someone.  I'm not happy with that motive anymore.  I want to change that pity to love... loving the Violin Man as if he were Jesus, and giving him my time instead of my money.


  1. Home baked goodies from Erin's kitchen for the 'violin man'...

  2. Thanks, Mom... good idea! :)

  3. ooh I loved this. Absolutely loved it. I found your blog through deniseandrade-boho girl and I am so glad I clicked on your name. I'm looking forward to reading more.

    Glynis :)

  4. Thanks, Glynis... I visited your blog too and really enjoyed it! :)

  5. Maybe Violin Man wants to be heard by someone. And when he is listened to, he once again remembers a man he used to be and rises to the occasion to play songs he had once perfected.
    You gave him more than money you gave him a bit of his life back again. Erin, his violin may be old and not in good shape causing the sounds. Plus cold weather could effect it as well.

  6. Dad, I think he might have memory problems. We were in town yesterday again and stopped to listen. He was playing the same thing. I had the boys and Coo with me, and he turned towards us and played for us! It was so sweet...


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